With as many as seven teams appearing to be locks for the NCAA tournament, Day 2 of the Big 12 tournament offers up some exciting matchups.
All four matchups on Thursday are essentially up in the air. No matter who comes out victorious, it wouldn’t be a surprise.
Even West Virginia—the only Big 12 team in action that most likely won’t make the Big Dance—has proven it can pull off the upset, recently defeating Kansas.
Here’s how Thursday’s Big 12 schedule looks:
|12:30 p.m. ET||No. 4 Iowa State vs. No. 5 Kansas State|
|3 p.m. ET||No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 8 Oklahoma State|
|9:30 p.m. ET||No. 3 Texas vs. No. 6 West Virginia|
|7 p.m. ET||No. 7 Baylor vs. No. 2 Oklahoma|
Kansas vs. Oklahoma State
Although these two split the season series, they enter Thursday’s matchup heading in different directions.
After a disastrous seven-game slide in February, the Cowboys seem to have picked things up, winning five of their last six games. That includes a 72-65 win over the Jayhawks in Stillwater.
Meanwhile, Kansas has stumbled, dropping two of its last three games. Most recently, the team suffered a baffling 92-86 loss to West Virginia on March 8.
More than likely, Thursday’s meeting will be a high-scoring affair, as both teams average around 80 points per game and aren’t known for their defense.
The Jayhawks will be at a disadvantage, as starting center Joel Embiid will be out indefinitely while dealing with a back injury, per ESPN’s Jeff Goodman. That could leave the team vulnerable inside the paint.
Look for Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart to take advantage. Since returning from his suspension, he has carried the team, averaging 19.5 points, 6.5 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 4.7 steals over the last six games.
Still, Kansas has won six of the last eight meetings between these two and has far too much talent on its roster to be bogged down by Embiid’s injury. Look for the Jayhawks to eke one out.
Prediction: 78-72 KU
Iowa State vs. Kansas State
While the Cyclones are all but assured a spot in the NCAA tournament—ratings percentage index ranking of No. 11—the same cannot be said about the Wildcats.
Sure, the team has an RPI ranking of No. 48 and is 6-2 against ranked opponents this season. However, Kansas State has also lost two straight and three of its last five.
Needless to say, the Big 12 tournament will go a long way in ensuring the team its place.
“I don’t know what our chances are in March Madness,” Wildcats forward Thomas Gipson said, via CBS Sports. “But we want to win the Big 12 tournament so that we have a chance.”
But it’ll take a lot more than confidence to top Iowa State. After beginning the season 14-0, the team has once again found success, winning five of its last seven games.
Look for Big 12 Player of the Year Melvin Ejim to take advantage of a Kansas State defense that has allowed 73 points or more to four of its last five opponents. Not to mention, the senior scored a combined 50 points in two meetings against the Wildcats this season.
It may be close at first, but look for the Cyclones to pull away late.
Prediction: 75-65 ISU
Texas vs. West Virginia
Both of these teams will enter Thursday’s matchup as losers of four of their last six games. However, the Mountaineers might come in with the most confidence, having toppled then-No. 8 Kansas, 92-86, last time they took the court.
Then again, the Longhorns could always fall back on its 2-0 record against West Virginia during the regular season.
Although these two seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum—Texas has an RPI ranking of No. 33 compared to the Mountaineers’ No. 82 ranking—guard play could be the recipe for an upset, per SB Nation’s Wescott Eberts:
That’s been evident in the play of guards Isaiah Taylor and Javan Felix as of late.
Over the last five games, Taylor has averaged just 10.2 points while shooting 16-of-57 (28.1 percent) from the field. In that same span, Felix has been even worse, averaging 7.8 points on 14-of-47 (29.8 percent) shooting from the floor.
However, center Cameron Ridley—15.2 points on 59.1 percent shooting over last five games—and the usually reliable Jonathan Holmes should be enough to carry the Longhorns.
West Virginia just isn’t deep enough.
Prediction: 79-65 UT
Oklahoma vs. Baylor
This could easily wind up being the most exciting matchup of the night for the Big 12, as both teams come in hot.
The Sooners have won five of six, including a 97-67 spanking of TCU on the road. Not only did that win serve as the most points the team has scored on the road since 1996, but Oklahoma also tied a season-best with 14 three-pointers in the game.
On the other hand, the Bears have overcome a sluggish 2-8 stretch by winning eight of their last nine. The team also recently celebrated the return of guard Kenny Chery to the starting lineup.
Although Baylor has recorded eight wins against RPI top-50 opponents—fourth best in the nation—the team lost both regular-season meetings to the Sooners. And given Bears’ head coach Scott Drew’s 5-18 career record against Oklahoma, don’t expect the third time to be the charm.
Backed by strong play from sophomore guard Buddy Hield—18.3 points over the last six games—the Sooners should win again.
Prediction: 72-68 OU
Unless otherwise noted, all stats, rankings and RIP/SOS information are courtesy of ESPN.com.